Like the time traveler hero of NBC’s Quantum Leap, we were transported to two different times with the two presentations on the first day of the upfronts. NBC took us back to pre-Covid 2019, pulling out all the stops with an elaborate production at Radio City Music Hall, including an energetic, elaborately choreographed number promoting Bravocon that featured dozens of performers and Bravo stars to rival a top Broadway show. There were a ton of presenters, with Kelly Clarkson performing to open the show and Miley Cyrus singing a medley to close it out.
Several hours later, Fox served a throwback to the virtual upfront events of 2020 and 2021 with a pre-taped presentation that included CEO Charlie Collier going on a tour of the Fox lot. Moving from Fox’s longtime upfront home, the 2,300-seat Beacon Theater, to Skylight on Vesey, the former site of the New York Mercantile Exchange which holds 800, Fox had Covid on their minds with the smaller venue where screens and seating in the round dominated the floorspace.
Because all bits were pre-taped, with occasional flourishes using the multiple screens, when Collier bantered virtually with Gordon Ramsay or Jon Hamm, the Fox presentation could not relay the news that top dramas 9-1-1 and The Resident had closed their renewal deals about an hour earlier and presenter Mayim Bialik announced a comedy series whose deal had not closed in time for the upfront.
The virtual presentation spilled into a live event at the end when Susan Sarandon appeared with Collier on a small stage at the center of the hall and then introduced her Monarch co-star Trace Adkins who performed. The Fox event also had an after-party with food and The Masked Singer host Nick Cannon as DJ.
NBCU, which has a private upfront party tonight, also featured monologues by NBC’s late-night hosts, Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers. The awkwardness of holding a big, in-person upfront during a pandemic was not lost on Meyers, especially on a day when New York issued an advisory for people to wear masks indoors as the city approaches the high Covid Alert Level.
“It’s been three years since the last time we gathered in person for upfronts, and I’m sure you all missed it as much as I did if not less,” he said. “How great it is to be at Radio City, what a historical room… to be able to tell people you caught Covid in.”
Dade Hayes contributed to this report.